Bush's foreign and domestic successes - do the media care?

Posted: Oct 30, 2003 12:00 AM

" . . . You're not going to like this, but my gut feeling is that all media is against George, a Republican, any Republican." Former First Lady Barbara Bush gave this assessment recently on NBC's "Dateline." For this reason, said Mrs. Bush, she had predicted defeat for her son, George W., in his 2000 presidential run.

And why not? The piling on continues from Democratic presidential contenders like Rep. Dick Gephardt (Missouri) and Sen. John Kerry (Mass.), both of whom decry, for example, the administration's alleged inability to get other nations to help finance the rebuilding of Iraq. "You remember on your report card you had your English grade, your history grade and then it said, 'plays well together'?" said Gephardt. "(Bush) flunked that part."

Bush dispatched Secretary of State Colin Powell to attempt to get other nations and international groups to financially chip in. Many pundits predicted disaster, with the U.S. receiving little or no economic assistance. USA Today wrote, "Many officials say the final figure may fall below $6 billion." The Los Angeles Times wrote, "Bathsheba Crocker, who has been studying Iraqi finances at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said she would be surprised if participants were to pledge more than a combined $1 billion . . . "

Well, what happened? The international community pledged $13 billion in grants and loans, exceeding the most dire predictions. So how did the media deal with this relatively good news?

The Los Angeles Times' front-page headline said, "Thirteen Billion for Iraq Exceeds Expectations but Falls Short." While the New York Times headline read, "Over $13 Billion in Aid is Pledged To Rebuild Iraq: Sum Exceeds Predictions," the paper duly noted that the assistance primarily consisted of loans rather than grants: "The total surpassed what many had expected, although roughly two-thirds of the aid appeared to be in the form of loans rather than grants, which might complicate efforts by the Bush administration to beat back a drive in Congress to make more American aid in the form of loans."

The Los Angeles Times threw cold water on the relatively good news. "The aid," said the L.A. Times, "which will be combined with an expected $20 billion in U.S. grants, was more than American officials had predicted at the beginning of the month, but the total is less than the $56 billion needed. U.S. officials said that some of the promises made at a two-day conference might not pan out and some confessed disappointment that Persian Gulf states had not given more, despite U.S. pressure."

Understand this. When the United States led a coalition to enforce U.N. Resolution 1441 in the face of United Nations fecklessness, we did so out of a concern for our national security interests. Many in the "international community" still fail to see that radical Islamists, who seek to practice terrorism, threaten civilization itself, not just the United States. But their failure to see the enemy before them simply means that the Unites States must do its duty and accept that -- at least in the short run -- this requires us to do the heavy lifting.

Many nations don't get it, and perhaps never will. Despite the United Nation's unwillingness to put muscle into Resolution 1441, terrorists attacked the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad. On Oct. 6, 2002, terrorists blew up a French tanker. On Oct. 12, 2002, in Bali, Indonesia, terrorists bombed a nightclub. And terrorists in Iraq recently bombed a Red Cross building.

As for President Bush, not a bad couple of weeks. First, the economy appears to be bouncing back nicely, with unemployment compensation claims going down, the stock market in a boom, and economic growth last quarter now pegging the '90s boom rate of growth at a brisk 6 or 7 percent.

Congress voted for his requested $87 billion to support the troops in Iraq and to assist in that country's reconstruction. And the United Nations unanimously approved a resolution opening the door for the possibility of foreign troops in Iraq as well as the discussed financial contributions.

North Korea earlier refused to discontinue a nuclear weapons program without a formal U.S. non-aggression treaty. Now Kim Jong Il agrees to discontinue with only a written security assurance from the United States. (But as President Ronald Reagan warned, trust but verify. Remember, the Koreans lied to former President Clinton.)

In Iran, after many defiant statements, the country now agrees to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency to inspect and assure the world that it, too, intends to discontinue its weapons program. Do you think that perhaps the president's invasion of Iraq made the other two-thirds of the Axis of Evil just a tad skittish? Coincidence?

Oh, well, as always, the Democratic presidential contenders can still browbeat Bush for failing to master the pronunciation of the word "nuclear."